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The Antitrust Legacy of Robert Bork

Whether one looks at the texts of the antitrust statutes, the legislative intent behind them, or the requirements of proper judicial behavior, therefore, the case is overwhelming for the judicial adherence to the single goal of consumer welfare in the interpretation of the antitrust laws.

That’s from the late Robert Bork, who died earlier this week.  I’m putting this one in a “people you should know” category. Bork was a Yale law professor and sometimes Justice Department official who is most famous for having his nomination to the Supreme Court shot down for being too conservative, or too wacky, or too something.  Whatever the reasons, the confirmation hearings and their aftermath are stuff of legend. (As was Bork’s beard!).

But for economists Bork’s greatest influence was certainly in the area of antitrust, and in particular his book, The Antitrust Paradox, from whence the above quotation was plucked.  Indeed, Bork is a seminal figure in the law and economics movement.  Note that Bork contends that consumer welfare is the end of antitrust policy, not the protection of firms from competition, not whether a given market is competitive or not, not even total welfare (!).  Think about that.

Steven Landsburg says that Bork won the antitrust argument and that we’re all the better for it.

Tyler Cowen also points us to some links discussing Bork’s life and legacy.

UPDATE:  A big piece on Bork’s influence in the Washington Post.